After a full day of working with kids and staff on our first day there, it was time to go on a home visit. We walked a few blocks from the center where we had just shared Bible stories and danced and sang and colored with the children. (It was amazing that despite the fact I could not speak even one word of the language, we found a way to celebrate together.) As we got nearer to the home of one of the children, the staff member filled me in with some of the things this family was dealing with. The mother was sick and we would be not only checking on the child, but the mom as well. As we neared the "home", I tried to make sense of my surroundings.
We entered the dark stairway leading up to their home. Everything in Cambodia seems to be "up stairs." When I say dark, that really does NOT begin to explain what we stepped into. No one in their right mind would willingly go into that unforgiving darkness, yet this is the path this family took daily and that I now followed the center worker into. Another member of our team was with me and honestly I was worried for her more than myself...or maybe my concern for her simply let me ignore my own fears for a moment.
The steps leading up to the home were uneven and broken. You never knew if the next step would be a full "step" or a part of one. The Khmer staff worker that went with us used her cell phone as a light to guide us through the darkness. For my friends who are repelled by germ-y surfaces, you'd have been appalled as I had to touch through the darkness at times to find my balance. The walls beside me, though shrouded in blackness and the unknown, were my only means of support.
Finally we made it to the top of the four flights of stairs, thinking at some point that we'd finally see some light...there was a tiny sliver of light by the time we reached the top floor. We entered the home - not what you and I would call "home" - merely a small room with a dirty concrete floor with a couple of small rag rugs that provided little relief from the unforgiving surface, a slat bed in the corner, an ice chest on a table and a slatted door that you'd expect to find as you entered an old barn, but not someone's home.
"Mom" sat next to the cluttered wall, "Grandmother" sat across the room....both on the hard concrete floor. They were so gracious - offering to allow us to sit on the side of the "bed" rather than the floor. In the background...was there really a background in a room this small? In the background, a little boy about 3 or 4 years old was busily "building" something with scraps of wood, arranging and re-arranging the pieces of 2 by 4 sections that had probably been gathered from the street...or maybe they had fallen off some part of the house. His mom described him as "busy busy" and a good son. Curious neighbors came to the door, and then just came in and joined the others on the floor. I'm sure the two foreign women who sat on the one of the only pieces of furniture in the room had something to do with that.
As we talked, the interpreter let us know that "Mom" was concerned about her middle son. Isn't it always the middle son? Her oldest son, who had some sort of handicap and used a walker to get around, was also a good son. (My mind raced - how did that son get up those dark uneven stairs?) The little boy who was so "busy, busy", was a good son, but it was the middle son, the one who was skipping school, who she was concerned was hanging out with gangs, that son was her concern.
Wait - how in the world could I be across the world and dealing with the same kind of problems we have here at home? Here was a mom, just like me, concerned about her child. Worried that he was making wrong choices. It was like sitting in some weird third-world parent conference!
Before we left, we prayed for this mom and her son. I even had the opportunity to pray directly for her son since he came in just before the end of the visit. Wow - wish I could do that at the end of parent-teacher conferences! We reaffirmed in that prayer that God has a purpose for this boy - and that he is a good son, not a "bad" boy. We prayed for Mom, Grandmother, and the son.
Then it was time to leave. We made our way back down the dark stairwell, stepping over the two cats that appeared from somewhere. Going down the stairs wasn't any easier than going up, or maybe it was. At least I knew I was going toward light - toward familiar. I wonder what it must be like to live in a place where going home meant such a difficult journey into darkness.
In Cambodia we learned a phrase - "Same, same - but different." It is used often when talking to people like me, who do not speak the language. For example, if you asked for a Diet Coke, they would hand you a Coke Light which was "Same, same." So many things I was beginning to encounter fit this phrase. Life in Cambodia - the people of Cambodia - so much really was "same, same" as life on my side of the world. We love our children. We worry about the choices they make. Our "hearts" become sick and we wonder what to do. We are the same.
As I write these words, I am struck with another thought...is it possible that this is true not just of those across the globe, but also of those I walk alongside each day? Is it possible for me to realize that no matter how "different" we may seem, we are all the "Same, same"?
One of the object lessons I used while in Cambodia was a rope trick where I take three different lengths of rope and make the analogy that sometimes we feel less than others. We all have times when we feel "different" and less worthy (or even more worthy) than someone else. But in God's sight - we are all the "same, same" - loved by the most high God. We have been created with a plan and a purpose. We are not the "good son" or the "bad son" - we are loved wherever we are.
Same-same....but thanks to this trip to Cambodia, I am now different. I have been changed - forever.
Romans 2:11 (Voice)
"God has no favorites."
The Message (MSG)
34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.